The Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated and accelerated important changes to how healthcare providers (HCPs) keep abreast of new product information relevant to their specialties and the patients they treat. Most notable among those is the HCPs’ embrace of digital technologies and digital-first channels of delivering content. This trend is accompanied by a growing preference for engaging with Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), who bring technical expertise and rigour to their sales pitches, over traditional medical representatives. Those shifts have a direct impact on how pharmaceutical marketing and sales teams must reorganize their work and the tools they use to communicate with HCPs, such that Sales may convert leads to prescribers. 

Underpinning the drive toward digital is a set of challenges that providers have been facing for years. Namely, high administrative burden, paucity of time for learning and training, a need to ”squeeze in” activities not related to direct patient care during off-hours and weekends, and a quest for immediate trustworthy responses to product-related questions.

In the context of these challenges, traditional sales rep strategies have begun to lose steam as a growing number of physicians have discovered the convenience of digital platforms. For example, HCPs are able to get many of the benefits of face-to-face detailing by attending training webinars and accessing scientific publications online – that is, without the need to schedule a meeting with a sales rep. Indeed, a survey of over 1500 physicians in Europe carried out by global research company Bryter showed that only 44% of HCPs were rep-accessible in 2016 compared to 80% in 2008.

So how is the industry evolving to cater to this transformation? The sobering reality for pharma companies´ European operations is that uptake of digital marketing on the continent is lagging, with only 11% of players reorienting their strategy compared to 21% in the U.S. and 47% in Japan, according to the Bryter survey. Similarly, deploying a hybrid approach that combines face-to-face meetings with online channels accounts for only 6% of contacts between HCPs and sales reps in Europe (although, to be fair, at 8% the U.S. is not doing much better). Altogether, 48% of surveyed physicians reported a “monochannel” experience.

To stay relevant, the pharma industry should take decisive steps to improve its digital footprint in dealing with HCPs. To do so, it only has to follow the guideposts helpfully left by market researchers: almost a third of survey respondents (32%) indicated that digital platforms make information easily shareable with colleagues, while 37% said digitally delivered promotional material fits in better with their schedule. If companies succeed in delivering their marketing pitches in a way that meets those preferences, they will have gone a long way toward repositioning their brands as trustworthy partners to physicians.

With Covid-19 having put the brakes on off-line marketing, the current moment presents a perfect opportunity for the industry to pivot to a more modern and flexible approach to HCP engagement. The type of pharma-proprietary content that physicians seem increasingly drawn to includes online training and education on drug safety, efficacy, and real-world data, so this is one sure path companies can take right away to get started on their digital marketing transformation journey.

In order to be successful – even comfortable – in their new marketing skin, however, it is essential for organizations to gain a 360° view of their customers. This is where PeakData’s Healthscape suite of services can help by partnering with your marketing or business development teams to understand their pain points in engaging HCPs and suggest data-driven improvements. Our deep expertise in untapping real-time insights from publicly available data on physician affiliations and appearances, social listening analytics, and publishing choices and collaborations can be your ticket to aligning your available resources with the demands of the digital communication era. So send us a message or give us a call and let´s explore how far you want your company to go – here at PeakData we´ll be sure to have just the right mix of research capabilities to help it get there.